Artist Profile: Sheryl McDougald

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rom queering Italian Renaissance art to documenting natural treasures, artist Sheryl McDougald does it all. Sheryl draws, paints, Photoshops and explores the amazing visual buffet that is the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

Sheryl has recently concentrated her artistic practice on the natural world that surrounds her on the Sunshine Coast. Sheryl was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1996, so mobility issues play a part in her artistic practice. However, she often does not need to travel farther than her back yard to discover sources of inspiration. She’s been known to procure a heron feather for her painting reference just by asking the heron nicely. Mixed-media still life sketches in ballpoint pen and watercolour have been her medium of choice of late. The objects she chooses to sketch often hint at the small, fleeting moments of meaning—a favourite tin, fresh spring growth—that can be forgotten among the larger strokes of life.

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cootering around the coastline affords Sheryl ample sketching opportunities and subjects—including the occasional surprise encounter with a whale! Her careful eye for detail is apparent in her illustrations. As illustrator of Alison’s Fishing Birds (Caitlin Press, 2017), Sheryl’s stunning illustrations of heron, salmon, salamanders and more, bring to life details of the wildlife in the text. Her many sketch journals are bursting with sketches of wings, skulls and flowers from species that are commonly found along the Sunshine Coast.

At the beginning of her painting studies, Sheryl spent two years working only in black and white paint. She reflects that this colour scheme is reminiscent of the “gunmetal” grey skies and ocean of the Sunshine Coast in fall. Working in this limited colour pallet allowed her to concentrate on form, which she did to fantastic success, especially on one form in particular; Sheryl has an enduring love for the Italian Renaissance body. It is through this subject which she explores gender and sexuality. In her work Sheryl turns a contemporary queer gaze onto Italian Renaissance art, creating historical re-imaginings through a queer female lens. A recent trip to Italy has inspired her to return to this area of interest. Sheryl’s cover illustration for What the Mouth Wants (Dagger Editions, 2017) combines her queer take on renaissance art with queer literature. On the cover, the eyes are obscured, hinting at a deeper queering of the Gaze.

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rom her sketchbook, July 6, 2017, Sheryl reflects on the power and subjectivity of the Gaze: “How does [the male gaze] apply/relate to the queer gaze—I look at male/male—and female/female and what about all the others?—all the sexualities of individuals—too many to categorize, and why place word limits on human sensuality? I look through paintings, seeking all the traces of love—traces that don’t fit the norm of my lifetime. Sometimes I use my own desire and create a new thing. ‘Fictionalized Encounters/’ Complex visual poetry. Not defined.”

Sheryl is the illustrator for Alison’s Fishing Birds, and What the Mouth Wants, and cover artist for Pedal (Caitlin Press, 2014). She lives in Roberts Creek and can be found scootering around with a travel kit of art supplies in her basket. You can find more of her work on her website, www.sherylmcdougald.wordpress.com.

Dagger Editions will feature the artwork of three queer women artists a year.

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